Navy Communications Rise and Shine, Again

December 16, 2011
By Beverly Schaeffer

In what has been an extremely successful program on U.S. Navy submarines is now being readied for the surface fleet. The Navy's subs have been operating with the Common Submarine Radio Room (CSRR) concept, and now hope to harness the benefits for Navy surface vessels. In his article, "Underwater Communications Rise to Surface Fleet" in this issue of SIGNAL Magazine, Max Cacas talks with the Common Radio Room (CRR) program manager and others involved in this transition. Upgrades will bring older surface vessels into the current "century," enabling them to use Internet-protocol-based tools. The CSRR program concluded in 2008 with installation of upgraded radio rooms in various submarine classes, according to Capt. Ken Ritter, USN, CRR program manager, Program Executive Office, Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO-C4I):

It's an effort to try to replicate what the submarine community has done with the CSRR, [but] on the surface side. Design and engineer once, replicate many times.

Capt. Ritter directs CRR development from Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic. He says that just as with the CSRR, the intent is to develop a common architecture mainly in the external communications suites aboard various ship classes under construction. The CRR program is being conducted at the behest of Rear Adm. David Lewis, USN, head of the Navy's PEO Ships, to determine if CSRR program success can be captured again for both fleet combat ships and vessels being built for the Military Sealift Command. The CRR project contains three pillars: Provide common, scalable communications architecture across a portfolio of ships; reduce the variation in hardware and software found in different ship classes and make them more common among each other; and introduce modernization to meet manpower requirements/reduce the crew workload. According to Capt. Ritter:

If we can ensure that our ships are more common, we can make sure that their jobs are a little easier. For the most part, they are similar, but we can always improve on that.

Capt. Ritter says that a broad agency announcement called for industry to provide its views on how to develop the technology primarily from an automation standpoint. A bid for contracting followed. The office awarded contracts to a number of companies. At this point, PEO-C4I is receiving and evaluating that input.

Comprehensive CRR specifications will be finalized for future upgrade programs and ships still on the drawing board. Common architecture enables systems to plug and play the new gear into a standard configuration-trumping the need to custom-install new gear.

Will the transition of technology from subs to surface ships be successful? Will it be as seamless as possible to ensure near-immediate interoperability? And are new technologies/solutions the best contenders for this transition? Share your thoughts here.


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